Innovation in Oral Health Generated by CHC VISTA Alum

Maren.PictureAfter a year of service as a VISTA, it is always interesting to hear what VISTAs learned and how the experience affects future plans. Maren Iverson served as the 2015-2016 VISTA at Community Dental Care in St. Paul, Minnesota. Some of her primary responsibilities included working on resource development for three clinic programs, Program to Improve Community Oral Health, School-Based Sealant Programs, and the MN Cavity Free Kids Program, where she developed manuals, conducted training’s, and held other conversations around oral health and nutrition.

During Iverson’s year she increased outreach to the community, helping more families and children access oral health care and improve oral health literacy. Within the last few months of service, Iverson helped launch a new program called the MN Cavity Free Kids Program* and was hired to continue work on the program throughout the summer. This innovative program is a culturally specific cohort model for promoting infant oral health for which few programs exist.

We can expect great things from Iverson in the coming years. When starting as a VSITA Iverson knew she wanted to become a dentist. That plan is taking root this fall as Iverson attends the University of Minnesota, School of Dentistry. In previous experiences Iverson job-shadowed multiple providers at general dentistry offices and worked at a private practice dental office. Through her year of service Iverson became passionate about the key role community oral health clinics play in promoting dental access, oral health literacy, and general health education. She now knows there is a great need for providers who can work with families and children who use community clinics to access dental care and plans to become a provider for them in the future.

As a third year VISTA, Iverson had the chance to meet with fellow VISTA Community Dental Care Alumni Nassim Sarkarati (‘14-‘15) and Emily Weichert (‘13-‘14). Given the opportunity to meet with both VISTAs, Iverson was able to understand the work leading up to her role of finalizing all projects and programs. Through these meetings Iverson has felt a sense of completion in her work and the work of the previous VISTA’s at Community Dental Clinic.

The advice Iverson would give to future VISTAs is to really get involved in their organizations. “It is easy for VISTA to feel just like a temporary position, but when you immerse yourself in your organization’s mission and culture, get to know the staff and programs, the great need for the work becomes clear and so does the reason why you are serving. That’s when you really feel a pull to devote all of your time to achieve the organization’s mission. It stops being just a job and becomes a call of action,” says Iverson.

The College Health Corps Team would like to wish Iverson good luck as she starts school at the University of Minnesota.

*If you are interested in learning more about the MN Cavity Free Kids Program, please contact the Program Coordinators by email at FatimaAli {at} cdentc(.)org and NancyCendejas {at} cdentc(.)org or by phone at (651) 925-8424.